That’s an email I got from my literary agent, about a year ago. How I appreciate the beauty and precision of a clear and concise email.
I’ve given workshops called “Mastering Business Email.” I hammer on the need to be clear and concise in your purpose, meaning, and word choice. My agent, although she didn’t attend my workshop, checked all the boxes on that email.
There’s also the concept of writing a compelling email—but only your audience gets to decide if what you write is compelling. If your email is targeted to the right person and your message is essential to them, your chances of being compelling go way up.
This email was my agent’s response after reading a novel I’d written, The Suitor. I was the sole audience for this email, and I found it compelling.
You’ve got something here says it all.
That email kicked off a year of back and forth between agent and author. The first task was to write a few more drafts of the novel to incorporate insightful editing suggestions from said agent and resolve some issues. There are always issues.
Then she suggested I come up with a new title, because The Suitor sounded old-fashioned while the novel was anything but. I came up with a new title that we both liked, but then we reverted back to The Suitor, which is a term getting a lot of attention these days because of the hit Netflix show Bridgerton (a bodice-ripping romance, which my novel is not).
Then we had to come up with the “logline” to hook an editor. My agent puts it like this: “When the person next to you at a dinner party asks what your book is about, what do you tell them?”
Answer: nothing. There are no dinner parties these days.
I hate writing these one-line pitches. Who can reduce to a line or two their 300-plus page complex and nuanced novel? You could never explain the story. You could never do justice to the key characters and conflict.
You had to do something.
Getting there, but not quite. A little more pizazz, please.
More attempts. More attempts. Collaborating with my agent, we came up with a final logline:
Is that the essence of The Suitor?
I spent a long time writing this novel. It happened over the course of years, not months. Early drafts wandered and lacked a strong resolution. I added characters, I took them away. The middle sagged. I put the manuscript down and wrote other fun stuff. I came back to it.
I had three interconnected characters that propel the story: the daughter (Anna), her new love interest (Kyle), and Anna’s father (Art). I was drawn to each of them, sympathetic to their challenges, their strengths, their weaknesses. Anna wanted adventure and distraction to help put a traumatic event behind her. Kyle so wanted to be somebody special. Art was faced with his own mortality and began to get a bit unhinged.
But I struggled with point of view and emphasis while writing. Whose story was I telling?
It wasn’t until I decided to structure the novel as alternating chapters with each chapter narrated by either Art, Anna, or Kyle that the story really crystalized and gained momentum. Each of them became the hero or antihero of their own story—and the villain in someone else’s.
Compelling? So I’ve heard from early readers. Because readers are the ones who decide.
Then the other day I got this email from my agent.
Again, the clear and concise language. She told me what I needed to know, no more or less. A major publisher has The Suitor in their hands.
Now I need to wait, which through experience I’m good at doing. Could be weeks, could be months.
If you’d like to read the first chapter of The Suitor, it’s right here.